I just found this interview with one of my favourite designers of all time on TeenVogue.com and I just had to share it with you! x
Marc Jacobs was only sixteen when he started working as a stock boy at the influential Upper West Side boutique Charivari. It was there that he first met Perry Ellis—the designer who, Jacobs says, encouraged him to apply to Parsons the New School for Design and mentored him while he was a student. Eight years later, Jacobs produced his infamous grunge collection for the Perry Ellis label. It was also at Charivari that Jacobs sold his first pieces, a collection of oversize, hand-knit sweaters that he designed while at Parsons (his grandmother made the original samples), the popularity of which he still refers to as "kind of my first big break."
Today Jacobs is one of the most well-known and closely watched designers in the world, helming his own signature label, a diffusion line, and the French luxury brand Louis Vuitton. But he shies away from offering explicit advice to anyone looking to duplicate his success: "I hate the word advice," he explains. "It's not a mathematical situation. I'm happy to share my experience, but everybody has a different path."
Teen Vogue: How did you first become interested in fashion? Marc Jacobs: As far back as I can remember, I had an interest in fashion. I used to go to sleepaway camp, and they'd provide a list of things that you had to bring, and I always wanted to be a bit more creative than the list allowed. Like, if they required chinos, I wanted to hand-paint them. Even then I thought of clothes as a way to express oneself, as a kind of theater. I was also really into making Halloween costumes and stuff like that. So I guess I saw fashion as a way to bring fantasy into my everyday reality. I never had enough money to do what I wanted to do when I was a teenager, but it was never really a problem—it pushed me to be more resourceful. I'd go to a uniform store and buy an air-conditioner-repairman jumpsuit and then customize it. I'd buy carpenters pants and overdye them, or a sweatshirt and cut off the sleeves. That way I could achieve the look I wanted.
Even at sixteen I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I met Perry Ellis at Charivari and asked him what he thought I should do about it. He said that if I was serious, I should go to Parsons. And that was that.
Teen Vogue: Do you think that design school is important for an aspiring designer? Marc Jacobs: I don't think there's anything wrong with getting an education. There are plenty of designers with no fashion background, but it probably helps in terms of being recommended for your first job. It helps you get your foot in the door at certain places.
For my senior show I made these oversize sweaters, and one of the owners of Charivari noticed and loved them so much that she asked if she could produce them for her store. Then The New York Times ran a number of photographs of women wearing the sweaters in its Street Style column, which got people asking, "Who's Marc Jacobs?" That was, for me, kind of the beginning. I was 21 years old, and it showed me that something I made was sellable. The experience made me realize that something I'm feeling may speak to somebody else, too. And all it takes is someone who believes in you. So I thought, Well, if I can do that with one sweater, then I can do it with a small collection—and things evolved from there.
Teen Vogue: Seeing strangers in your designs must be an everyday occurrence for you now. Is it still exciting? Marc Jacobs: Yes! To me, it's the greatest compliment. Even when I see a copy, something that's inspired by something I've done, it's a rewarding feeling. Because that's why I do what I do. It was never my desire to revolutionize fashion, to make clothes that could be in a museum. I want to create clothes that have a certain style, but I want to see them used. I want to see people enjoy the things I've made.
Teen Vogue: What does your job consist of now? Marc Jacobs: Actually, I do two jobs. I work for my own company and I work for Louis Vuitton, but my position at both companies is the same. I'd describe it as being part of a team—a very big team—of creative people: designers, sewers, pattern-makers, sales people. We put on shows, we do lots of press, and I work on shoes, handbags, perfume...all sorts of things. But it's always the same process: Coming up with an idea, working through the colors, the materials, the sensibility, the spirit, and having that idea realized in a three-dimensional form. Then you check it, correct it, tweak it, and get it as close as you can—within the time that you have—to what the initial thought was.
Teen Vogue: And where do the ideas come from in the first place? Marc Jacobs: Everywhere. Everywhere and anywhere. They come from other people, they come from me, they come from people I see on the streets. Sometimes they come from a movie I saw the night before, and sometimes it's as simple as wanting a big, soft sweater because I'm cold that day.
Teen Vogue: Is it challenging to work on so many different lines? Marc Jacobs: Yes. But it's not only me here—there's a bunch of other people. That's one of the things I think is so great about us as a company. Robert [Duffy, Jacobs's business partner] and I have created an environment that really allows the people we've chosen to express themselves. We don't have a totalitarian dictatorship of watching over everyone's shoulder as they sketch, and nobody is waiting around for me to tell them what to do. They just get on with it. They make stuff. I always reduce my job to that line: I say, "You know, I just make stuff." And that's what everybody here does. We make stuff, we look at it, we add to it, we edit it, we change it. Maybe that's demystifying the whole thing, but that's what it comes down to.